The Congress on Monday demanded answers from the Narendra Modi government after reports said that the Centre has decided to lift the ban on dealings with Italian defence company Leonardo, earlier known as Finmeccanica.
“What is the ‘secret deal’ entered into between Modi government and Augusta/Finmecanica?” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala asked. “Is it now ok to deal with a company that Modi ji and his government called ‘corrupt-bribe giver-bogus’?”
In 2010, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had signed a Rs 3,565-crore helicopter deal with the British-Italian firm AgustaWestland, which is a subsidiary of Finmeccanica. However, the deal was put on hold after Italy arrested the head of Finmeccanica on charges of paying bribes to win the contract.
After the alleged scam came to light, the Bharatiya Janata Party had criticised the Congress, asking if its leaders had received bribe money for the deal signed during its term.
On Sunday, reports citing unidentified government officials had said that the ban on dealings with Finmeccanica will be removed with conditions. One of this is that the company cannot raise any commercial claims or file any civil lawsuit against India for any of the deals made earlier.
Inquiries being conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate will also continue.
On Monday, the Congress spokesperson said that the Modi government had withdrawn blacklisting of Finmeccanica in 2014 and has now lifted the ban on procurement.
Surjewala also recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called the helicopter deal “corrupt”. “HM [home minister] called the company ‘bogus’,” he said in a series of tweets. “Ex defense minister accused it of ‘bribes and corruption’ in Parliament.”
In another tweet, Surjewala said that several media channels had aired “thousands of hours” of footage of the documents of the deal given by the Modi government and created a “false narrative” against the United Progressive Alliance ahead of the 2019 Assembly elections.
“Will they now dare to question Modi government on the secret deal with Augusta?” he asked.